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So I have intermittently attempted to write "review" posts (more like love letters) where I gush about my favorite books of all time. It is impossible for me to talk about favorite books, however, without talking about one of my first favorite books: Anne of Green Gables.



Anne of Green Gables is my childhood. I was first exposed to the series through the movie (the first movie -- I didn't realize for ages that there were sequels, and when I did, it would continually puzzle me that the movies had Gilbert of age to fight during WWI when in the books it was their children that did), which I adored, and which invariably influenced my perception of the books, and how I mentally envision many if not all of the scenes in the book. (In particular, it took me ages to understand what color “auburn” was as the actress’s hair in the movie tended to the lighter side rather than the darker side.)

When I was little, I desperately wanted to be just like Anne — I wanted to be as creative as her, as imaginative her. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anne is where my love of writing came from, or if Anne is why I don’t think it’s strange I tell myself stories when I’m bored. I did plagiarize her an awful lot in the stories I told myself (they tended to have the same coloring as her favorites, Cordelia & Geraldine).

I loved everything about Anne, not just her creativity, but also her passion, her joie de vivre, her quirks. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity, as the book said. I loved how easy it was for her to fall from spiraling pleasure to the "depths of despair" (a turn of phrase I still enjoy), as it not only made for a fun read, but also made me like her melodrama a lot more than the melodrama that sometimes emerges in modern-setting YA fiction. (This is in part because some of her melodrama was in fact earned -- here was a girl who was orphaned, who'd essentially been used by others as free labor most of her childhood, who'd never had an actual friend until she came to Green Gables, and yet she is still so optimistic and full of hope and love of life.)

I learned a number of important lessons from her — from the importance of creativity, to the importance of not scaring yourself to death with your creativity, to the perils of what may happen if you don't pay attention when you're cooking or if you don't read the labels of what you add. Quotes like “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.” stuck with me were where your typical moral tales did not. I also learned that ipecac is very important for croup, even though I had no idea what either ipecac or croup was, exactly.

I also suspect Anne/Gilbert was my first OTP. I shipped them from their very first page together. Even as I was indignant at his teasing her (and especially at the schoolteacher’s dreadful treatment of her), I knew that they were destined to be together forever, and I loved the progression of their relationship.

I actually like them best in the first book. It was ages before I realized that there were other books in the series, and I feel like the Anne/Gilbert romance is not as strong in later books — what appealed to me most is that they were rivals, that they struggled to best each other in school, that they had a history of conflict that meant they were ever drawn to each other. I loved that she refused to speak to him, while he was picking up roses she discarded, and that he found her interesting but was still hurt by her silent treatment for something he'd done years and years ago. (I remember reading the books and feeling indignant on her behalf and thinking that he deserved her treatment -- but even as child, I remembered thinking that Anne really knew how to hold a grudge.) I liked their butting heads, and the dynamic it brought to their relationship. The later books, especially the love triangle, lost a lot of that and their post-married life was rather dull, in part because L.M. Montgomery's vision of a happily married life does not quite align with mine.

While I will take the time to reread the series, I still love the first book best. The first book made me fall in love with Anne and Diana, with Gilbert, with Matthew & Marilla & Mrs. Lynde. But it also made me fall in love with Avonlea, with P.E.I., with all of its lush descriptions of what sounds like gorgeous scenery. One of the things I love best about L.M. Montgomery is her descriptive language, which I have been trying to reread lately with an eye towards improving my own inability to describe scenery. The later books move away from Avonlea, however, and while Anne's House of Dreams is beautiful in its own right, it lacks a lot of the emotional connections I made to Avonlea, and I don't care as much.

Furthermore, when Anne grows up and matures, she becomes a lot less interesting. Anne of Green Gables was primarily about a young girl with too much enthusiasm for everything, and while she makes mistakes as part of that (SO many mistakes), her hijinks were part of what I loved. As she grew up, there was less of that (understandably so). Adults are just not as interesting as children, I guess.

Glittering castles in Spain were shaping themselves out of the mists and rainbows of her lively fancy; adventures wonderful and enthralling were happening to her in cloudland–adventures that always turned out triumphantly and never involved her in scrapes like those of actual life.

The Anne Shirley of my heart will always be the one dreaming and hijinks-ing her way through life.
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